Jul 18, 2016 - Nooksack General Council Convenes Emergency Meeting; Elects Four Interim Councilpersons

(Deming, WA) – On Thursday night (July 14th), the Nooksack General Council convened an emergency meeting that resulted in the election of four interim Tribal Councilpersons and the unanimous passage of a Resolution that invoked the body’s inherent, reserved authority given the breakdown in Nooksack constitutional government.

Because the holdover Tribal Council refused to convene an election for four Tribal Council seats that was constitutionally required by March 19, 2016, and overthrew the Court before the election was about to be judicially compelled, the General Council convened the meeting and held its own election.

Four non-Nooksack 306 members were elected to office: Robert Doucette, Vice Chairman, Bernie Roberts, Treasurer, Ron Roberts, Councilperson, and Jeremiah Johnny, Councilperson. Doucette served on the Tribe’s first Tribal Council after its recognition in 1973, and Bernie Roberts also previously served on the Tribal Council.

The new Councilpersons will soon be sworn in before the remaining four Councilpersons: Bob Kelly, Chairman, Nadene Zapata, Secretary, Carmen Tageant, Councilperson (whose recall from office by the holdover Tribal Council, the General Council also invalidated), and Bob Solomon, Councilperson.

According to the Resolution, the four new Council officers will serve “until a supervised in-person, in-secret election can be conducted for those four expired and vacant seats.” The General Council unanimously called upon the Bureau of Indian Affairs to conduct that election “as soon as is practically possible.”

George Adams, the last fluent Nooksack speaker and vocal opponent of disenrollment at Nooksack, facilitated the General Council meeting traditionally, and posted the following to his Facebook page after the meeting:

The beginning of the end to tyrannical rule. Our ancestors too rejoice. First time in forever a return of our ancient forum. There were no tribal cops enforcing rule by decree. It was a free and a safe haven to be heard.”

The General Council invoked its “ancient” powers, as recognized in the Preamble to the Tribal Constitution, “to establish our tribal organization, to conserve our tribal property, to develop our common resources, to establish justice, and to promote the welfare of ourselves and our descendants.”

Under federal Indian Reorganization Act tribal governance structures, a tribe’s inherent sovereign powers originally rest with its members, known collectively as the General Council. As the Resolution explains:

the constitutional institutions and democratic systems of our tribal organization over which the Nooksack General Council had previously delegated its power, which include the Tribal Council, the Tribal Court, and the Tribal Police Force, have been disestablished, in derogation of Articles III and VI of the Constitution and By-Laws.

The Tribal Council, Tribal Court and Tribal Police Force are all institutions of the Nooksack Constitution, with specific delineated roles and responsibilities.

Given the Tribal Council’s most recent malfeasance in overthrowing of the Tribal Court and Police Force, the General Council re-asserted itself and “re-established the Tribal Council on an interim basis “to restore democratic governance, law, order, and justice to the Members of the Nooksack Indian Tribe.”

As Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law explains: “While the co-existence of general councils and tribal councils presents the possibility of conflict between the two, the persistence of general councils reflects traditional tribal values of consensus in the political process.”

Doucette, Bernie Roberts, Ron Roberts and Johnny were each elected by majority vote, and the Resolution was passed unanimously, reflecting traditional Nooksack consensus values.

With over 200 Nooksacks in attendance, the meeting was the largest General Council meeting in years; and one of only two such meetings at Nooksack since 2012, despite a constitutional requirement that the Tribal Council convene a General Council meeting once per month.

Attendance was high despite now-former Councilperson Katherine Canete, who also serves as the Tribe’s General Manager, having sent an email out to all Nooksack employees just hours before the meeting, threatening any employee who attended the meeting with the loss of their job.

The meeting was held beyond Nooksack tribal lands, at the Deming Logging Show facility, to avoid interference or arrest by the Tribal Police.


CONTACT: Michelle Roberts michelle.roberts3012@gmail.com

Last Real Indians